Gervais Martel: “Marking the occasion for children and giving people the opportunity to find players who made them dream, June 4 in Calais”

June 4, at 16.00, meet a team of legends from RC Lens Variétés Club de France on the lawn of the Stade de l’Epopée in Calais (online tickets are available via the helloasso platform by clicking here). A gala match organized in favor of the association La Chance aux Enfants under the leadership of Gervais Martel. This association regularly takes underprivileged children from Hauts-de-France to sporting events, with the aim, initially, of taking 10,000 to the Paris Olympics in 2024. A goal that has gained even greater ambitions over time. The former president of RC Lens takes stock of us and tells us about the big event coming up near Calais. Gervais Martel, we left you before the health crisis with this goal of taking 10,000 children from Hauts-de-France to the Paris Olympics in 2024 with your association La Chance aux enfants. Has the project been able to progress since?
It is going very fast as it is no longer 10,000 but 15,000 children we have to take! 10,000 at the Olympic Games and 5,000 at the Paralympic Games. We have set up an extremely important steering group with amazing people like the Decathlon Foundation, Toyota, EDF … many Olympic Games partners have joined us. The University of Artois is also helping us tremendously by making a few students available to work on the project. We are now based at the Arena in Liévin, we are also helped a lot by Jean-Marie Petitpre (general manager of the Arena). This steering group consists of about twenty people who share all the important tasks. It is a large organization because there are 15,000 children plus accompanying persons that can be expected, knowing that one companion is needed for 7 to 8 children. This represents a total of 18,000 people to take to the Olympics and more than about 380 buses. All children are in a vulnerable situation, located in Hauts-de-France, and there is a whole organization to respond to their requests. There is a lot of work.

How was this gala match on June 4 in Calais organized between Legends of RC Lens and Variétés Club de France?
This is part of the actions we will be producing until 2024. We were contacted by Variétés Club de France to find out if it was possible to play a match with the former RC Lens under the leadership of La Chance aux Enfants . There was a huge mobilization on the part of the players. There will be Laurent Blanc, Christian Karembeu, Alain Giresse, Sonny Anderson and many others with Variétés Club de France, under the responsibility of Jacques Vendroux. For Lens, there are the usual veterans who are local, but I also asked players who were part of my teams to join them. There will be Moreira, Queudrue, Sikora, Warmuz (find his interview here), Wallemme, Fred Déhu, Diouf, Dindane, Vairelles, Smicer, Hilton and many others … It will be really nice and the profit goes to the association, so we wait many people in Calais on 4 June. A few hundred children will also be invited.

Why is the match being played in Calais ahead of Bollaert?
Bollaert is still a great skill and the initiative came from Calais, where Jacques Vendroux comes from. This also helps the Calais club, which has ambitions for the next 10 years. It was logical to do that there, with also Natacha Bouchart (mayor of Calais) wearing wet shirt in the operation. It is also good to decentralize from time to time.

It will also be an opportunity to get a thought for Daniel Leclercq and Papa Bouba Diop. »

What do you expect from this day?
What I expect is that people come to find people who made them dream at some point in their lives. This is an opportunity to mark the occasion for the children and be able to prepare well for this goal in 2024. It will be a moment of celebration, a moment of accessibility with the public. I hope we have a good time, with the joy of meeting again. It will also be an opportunity to get a thought for Daniel Leclercq and Papa Bouba Diop, who have left us.

Your seniors, in what form do you expect them?
Above all, I am waiting for them to be in good mental shape, happy to be together, to talk about certain times, the good times that have passed … The last few days I have talked a lot with Vladimir Smicer , whose birthday it was on Tuesday, and who is very happy to see his friends again. It’s clear we’re not going to put notes like you do in the press at the end of the match. It’s mostly about finding oneself. Francis Gillot becomes team coach, assisted by François Brisson.

We will see several generations of RC Lens players mingling on the pitch. Are they all equally dear to you, even though they have not all had the same success?
Of course, I have never made any difference with my players. We had a few cases that we could not catch up with, but that was very rare! By the way, I keep a good memory every time. I never felt like my players would lose. There were generations more lively than others, but I make no difference!

Interview by Christophe Schaad

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